Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 12 (Fin) – The War Continues

Last week ended on a hopeful note, but there was still a lot that could go wrong with Kaguya and Miyuki’s big night at the fireworks festival. And what do you know, it does! Just as she’s ready to head out, one of the butlers not named Hayasaka vetoes her outing as too dangerous, so she has to text Chika that she can’t go, and she’s sorry.

Kaguya enters heretofore unplumbed depths of dejection, but Hayasaka tells her to regain her Kaguya attitude that would have normally had her trying to sneak out by now. Hayasaka aids in all the ways she can by posting a tweet to Kaguya’s feed that Miyuki picks up on, then disguising herself as Kaguya so she can swing Tarzan’s Jane-style over the wall and to a waiting taxi.

While getting out of bed and sneaking out of the house was a big win, Kaguya still has to get to the fireworks before they’re over…and she isn’t able to succeed. The taxi is stuck in traffic, and there’s only so much ground she can cover in yukata and geta. She’s able to glimpse the fireworks closer than ever before—between buildings—but by the time she reaches the meeting spot, the display has concluded and the crowds are cleaning up after themselves (what a concept!) and heading home.

Of course, all this time, we know that Miyuki has been racing around on his bike, attempting to intercept Kaguya on her ill-fated solo mission to reach the fireworks. He manages to pick the right alley where she’s chosen to cry, then takes her by the arm and tells her he’s going to make sure she sees some fireworks. He accomplishes this with help from Yuu and Chika, who are waiting with the same taxi  Kaguya took before, driven by one of the Four Ramen Kings.

The driver takes liberties with the speed limit and gets them under the Aqua Line towards Umihotaru, where the fireworks display will still be going on for another twenty minutes. There’s an action thriller flavor to their undersea tunnel trip, and an ultimate feeling of triumph when they emerge at the other side to a sky full of gorgeous fireworks. Only now, that she’s closer than ever to those fireworks, all Kaguya can watch is Miyuki’s face, and all she can hear is the beating of her own heart. Daaaaaw.

While the fireworks night turned out to be a great victory for everyone, pulled from the jaws of defeat numerous times, the real proof in the pudding of whether Kaguya and Miyuki’s relationship has grown would come in the aftermath. We get a glimpse of that as the new school term begins, and both of them are so bashful and self-conscious that every time they try to approach each other, they end up sailing by like ships in the night—or two dogfighting planes.

Again and again they swoop by, with Chika eventually getting into the spirit of things with an “asterisk” before Yuu arrives and unwittingly makes it a “triangle.” Kaguya and Miyuki then banish both Yuu and Chika (“shooting them down”, as it were) in order to get the privacy they need to finally confront each other about last night.

Kaguya just wants to thank him for everything he did, but as they finally meet and end up bumping into a kind of half-hug, her broomstick juts into his chest, and she says the very words he feared she’d say as an appraisal of his “egotistical” behavior and “cringeworthy lines” the other night: “it must be painful.” Of course, she was talking about the broomstick, not his behavior. But he runs off anyway, and Kaguya gives chase, and henceforth everything is pretty much back to normal.

Surely other situations will come in the future where the two will be able to hang out and do fun stuff and experience moments of beauty and honesty together—but due to their stubborn pride and persistent self-consciousness, any such interactions will only come after much hand-wringing and hesitation. Perhaps, given enough time, it will get easier. But as long as they think something that manifestly isn’t a war is, it’ll remain akin to pulling teeth. But hey, a romantic can hope!

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Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 11 – Twitter, Ramen, And Missed Connections

This week’s collection of stories vary wildly in tone from ludicrous to serious to unabashedly earnest and poignant—and that’s all fine, since it depicts the reality of high school life, it’s highs, lows, and MEHs. First, due to their stubborn refusal to make the first move, both Kaguya and Miyuki are letting the sand pour away in the hourglass of summer without meeting up.

When Kaguya learns Hayasaka is following Miyuki on Twitter, she decides to sign up to mitigate her loneliness. Her appalling lack of IT skills (beyond speed typing) mean poor Hayasaka’s much-needed replenishing bath is being constantly interrupted by Kaguya panicked cries for assistance. In the end, Kaguya runs into the same issue as texting or calling: she has to make the first move to follow Miyuki (garnering her mental image of Miyuki saing “how cute” for once).

Alas, she’s unable to do so and risk breaking the stalemate. She and Miyuki might describe the importance of to winning the “war of love” and preserving their pride through inaction, but the “war” is Pyrrhic, and their pride only a thin facade barely concealing their fear. Hayasaka muses at how happy they’d be if they simply acted on their obvious mutual feelings, and is envious of the depth of those feelings.

Part Two is from the POV of a “ramen connoisseur” who treats the acts of ordering, seasoning, and eating ramen as a kind of war all its own. When Chika enters the same shop, he assumes she’s lost, but all of her actions suggest a fellow connoisseur, one of “his people.”

Even when she seemingly makes missteps that detract from his respect for her, she surprises both him and the chef with increasingly choice moves, from choosing super-firm noodles that will withstand the “mini-ramen” method, crushing garlic into the broth, and even draining the bowl like a boss, something that makes the aging dude recall his youth when sodium intake was of no concern.

Chika is adorable and awesome throughout the segment in which she attains an easy victory, living her best summer life while her president and vice-president wallow in their dark rooms. One day it finally becomes too much, and both of them don their uniforms and go to school in hopes of possibly meeting the other there.

They both have the right idea, but the wrong timing, as Kaguya has already departed the office by the time a winded Miyuki gets there by bike. The ennui and melancholy so very palpable in this gorgeous third segment that takes its time, and in which no one wins. The solution to seeing each other (something both want very badly) is to simply shoot a quick text to each other, but because neither can do that, they fail to meet. The pointless war continues.

Post-credits we get a surprise fourth-segment, narrated entirely by Kaguya in monologue. She describes all of the things that have kept her, the privileged daughter of a very wealthy man, from living a normal girl’s life and experiencing the simple things people like Chika take for granted.

The segment makes no attempt to hide Kaguya’s ornate, grandiose lifestyle, but also never fails to make us sympathize with her. The lack of warmth, love, or even the sharing of a damn room with her father, who summoned her to the main house for a two-second exchange, causing her to abandon shopping plans with Chika, her sister, and Kei, is particularly devastating, as is Hayasaka’s holding of her hand for emotional support.

The segment thankfully ends on a triumphant note: no longer will Kaguya have to settle for the view of distant lights from her giant, lonely bedroom window; she’s going to the festival to see them up close, with people she cares about and who care about her in return. Maybe, just maybe, an armistice in the war of love can be reached…

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 10 – Recovering From Fevergate

Splashed across a tabloid spread, “the sleepover incident” has created fresh and lingering tension between Kaguya and Miyuki, which should go without saying: it was a major step forward, even if it was utterly innocent. Still, neither is prepared to admit the incident for what it was, or their frustration with how it turned out, resulting in heightened passive aggression.

Things boil over when there’s only one slice of cake left (Yuu ate the second), leading to an epic, hour-long battle of wills with the two insisting the other eat it, even bringing up memories that make each of them have to turn away and blush about. The eventually come around to feeding each other simultaneously, but before they can do so Chika comes in to break it up, eat both bites, leading to a loss for both of them.

In the next segment, Kaguya seeks advice from Kashiwagi, while Miyuki goes to Yuu for advice on how to resolve the issue “for a friend.” Both tell their sides of the story, and each of their confidants is outraged by the injustice, leading to both Kaguya and Miyuki qualifying those events with other factors.

By the end of it, both Kashiwagi and Yuu agree (albeit quite independently) that if nothing happened and they both properly apologized, there is nothing left to be angry about. Of course, neither knows that the reason Kaguya is upset is that Miyuki didn’t even try to lay a finger on her.

Miyuki confronts her in the hall and says that he actually, did, but it was only one finger on her lips. Sufficiently satisfied (not to mention elated beyond belief), Kaguya returns the favor by touching his lips with her finger, making them even. This is how despite starting out in a state of tug-of-cake-carnage, both come out winners.

Now fully made up and back to normal, the term ends and Summer Vacation is about to begin. Both Kaguya and Miyuki are relying on Chika to use as a co-ed conduit to hanging out with each other without exposing how they feel (even though, if they’re honest, they already did that with the lip-touching).

Unfortunately for them, and as Kaguya quietly predicted, attempting to control Chika into getting your way is a lot tougher than you’d think. She’s off to Hawaii for a week in the Summer, and thus won’t have time for any other trip of that length, so she’s pretty much out. That’s when Yuu chimes in, wanting to make memories with his senpai.

That gives Miyuki an opening to suggest the end-of-Summer fireworks festival, which all four agree upon (Chika and Kaguya with particular enthusiasm). The only problem is, the August 24 date doesn’t work for Chika, who’ll be at a “tomato festival in Spain.”

No matter—Kaguya and Miyuki are committed to not wasting the vacation without ever hanging out with each other, and now they’ve found a new willing, and more malleable co-ed conduit to do so in Yuu. Could such a scenario provide the necessary conditions for either of them to move past feverish bed-sharing and coy lip-touching? We will see…

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 09 – Their First Sleepover

A typhoon that shuts down the trains brings good fortune for Kaguya, if only she’d simply use it and not make things more complicated. However, asking Miyuki if he wants a ride, thus initiating a “car date”, would be breaking her code, so she waits for him to ask for a ride instead.

Her hesitation ends up opening other opportunities for Miyuki. First, Chika offers to share her taxi, and Kaguya has to use her fear of lightning stealing her belly button to usher her out of the StuCo office. But then the trains start running when the typhoon dies down, further threatening the car date.

Kaguya resorts to sabotaging Miyuki’s phone battery, but he still doesn’t ask for a ride, and when her phone rings, she panics and runs outside where Hayasaka and the car are waiting.

Still, Kaguya waits outside, in the lashing wind rain, for Miyuki to come outside, get down on his knees, and beg for a ride. Instead, he races out of the school on his bike, resigned to get soaked but intent on getting to work as quickly as possible. He utterly drenches Kaguya in his wake.

The next day, Kaguya has a terrible fever and is consigned to bed. Someone from the StuCo has to visit her to drop off printouts, and Miyuki leaves himself open until Chika brings up the fact Kaguya talks and acts like a baby when she’s sick. Suddenly, Miyuki is motivated to be the one.

But Chika decides they’ll determine who goes with a game of Concentration, and she cheats numerous times, so intent she is on seeing Kaguya in her cutest state. All the time, I was wondering why Miyuki didn’t simply use his authority as president to decree that he was going.

Once he hears from Yuu that Kaguya was waiting outside for someone and starts to remember drenching someone, Miyuki does what he needs to win the card game, while shaming Chika into oblivion; Chika leaves the office the way Yuu usually does: pondering death.

Miyuki arrives to find Hayasaka disguised as a maid, and she escorts him to Kaguya’s room where she’s ransacking the place looking for fireworks. Chika was right: Kaguya isn’t just a baby, but completely off when she’s sick. Hayasaka explains that her ego is being suppressed by the fever, leaving only the id.

She then leaves Miyuki along with Kaguya, making sure to drive into his head the fact that they won’t be disturbed, the walls are soundproof, and Kaguya won’t remember anything he says or does while in her feverish state…BUT tells him not to do anything appropriate, wink-wink.

Miyuki is on his best behavior, but the fever-drunk Kaguya is the one who ends up doing something inappropriate. She opens her covers, pulls Miyuki into the bed, and won’t hear of him leaving her side. Miyuki is exhausted anyway, and so falls asleep.

Kaguya wakes up before him, the fever passed and of sound mind, and completely freaks out when she finds Miyuki beside her. She rouses him from sleep, shoves him out of the bed and her room, and asks a coy Hayasaka “how far she got” with Miyuki while she was feverish.

Thus ends the least romantic first sleepover either Kaguya or Miyuki could have asked for; one in which one of them wasn’t really all there, and the other was rightly very careful not to take advantage. I liked how this entire episode told one continuous story, though I doubt there will be lasting repercussions from the “sleepover” due to the unique circumstances involved.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 08 – Study Long, Study Wrong

Three stories this week! Story the First: Kaguya encounters a cute visitor who she remembers is really Miyuki’s little sister Kei, StuCo treasurer of the middle school division. Kaguya gets it into her head (deep, deep into her head) that if she suceeds in nurturing a close friendship with Kei, she’ll look at her as a sister, giving her the familial love she craves and bringing her closer to Miyuki.

Heartbreak strikes when it turns out Chika (whose imouto is in Kei’s class) is a shitload closer to Kei than Kaguya could ever imagine. But the true twist is that the end, when we learn Kei is actually infatuated with Kaguya, and laments to her oblivious bro that she wasn’t able to close the distance between them. Thus Kei loses.

Story the Second:  With final exams approaching, both Miyuki and Kaguya engage in elaborate games of lies and deception, both of them absolutely determined to claim the top student ranking with their grades. They manage to convince Chika that she doesn’t need to study to do well, but neither of them particularly care one way or another about Chika’s fate, only their own.

When the scores and rankings are posted, Miyuki has prevailed once again, with Kaguya finishing a close second. Internally, Kaguya wants to roll around in the pool of blood that threatens to shoot out of her eyes, but she keeps her composure and congratulates the President, noting that he must be pleased.

At the same time, Miyuki claims that he can’t feel any joy over such a close and hard-fought victory, only relief…but when he retires to the men’s room it’s a different story, as he’s so overjoyed he starts shadowboxing for no reason…as one does. Winner: Miyuki.

Story the Third takes place a week before the finals. Kaguya is aware that the next exam Yuu fails will force him to repeat the grade, a black mark against the honor of the StuCo she as its veep cannot allow. To that end, she grabs his hand and spirits him away to a dark supply closet where she commits to making sure he studies enough not to fail, on her honor as a Shinomiya.

Yuu is initially as terrified of Kaguya as usual—she makes him do the two things he fears most, after all: studying, and eating tiny dried sardines—but when two classmates spot the two in the library and look primed to spread weird rumors, Kaguya stands up for Yuu, telling them she doesn’t judge people by what others say, only by her personal experiences with those people.

Yuu ends up passing, and rising a number of spots in the rankings (up from second to last), but Kaguya is still furious that he only barely passed after all the hard work she put in. Miyuki drops his guard in assuring Yuu that while Kaguya may seem cold-hearted, she is someone who can always be relied upon to follow through. For his unsolicited flattery of his opponent in the War of Love, Miyuki loses the round.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 07 – Two Pyramids

Once again Miyuki is relied upon by a fellow student for romantic advice, only this time, it’s something he’s confident he can handle: how to hold a girl’s hand. I mean, he has shared an umbrella with one already, no?”  Miyuki makes this all about economics, urging the boy to get a job so he can afford surgery for his sweaty hands, training for a boater’s license (which Miyuki himself inexplicably has), and rent a boat on which to introduce his hand to Kashiwagi’s.

Her “Love sense” going off, Detective Chika intervenes and offers the much simpler and much more affordable advice of “do your best,” which the lad takes with gratitude and ends up succeeding, sweaty palms and all. The eavesdropping Kaguya, not wanting Miyuki’s work to spoil her summer plans for him, offers side-splitting commentary during the advice session, while Miyuki loses the round because thanks to Chika he lost a potential part-time recruit.

From there we transition to a budget session between Miyuki and Yuu, with the latter going off on various anti-youth rants fueled by his jealousy for the sports club members getting all the girls. The two main status pyramids at the academy are that of economic background (how rich your parents are) and clubs (with anime club being below “no club at all” in precedence).

Miyuki is just trying to keep Yuu focused on crunching the numbers, but also says that participating in a cultural club is possible in the StuCo, as Chika (board games) and Kaguya (Japansese archery) are both club participants. That sends Yuu on a different rant, as he describes Kaguya’s flat chest as perfect for archery, compared to the bouncing Chika would have to contend with.

Little does he know both girls are right behind him. Chika carefully crafts a paper fan with which to beat Yuu senseless. When Yuu heads home to prepare a will, the girls start pulling at Miyuki, urging him to join their respective clubs. Even though he ultimately has to turn both down (his part-time job precludes clubs), he lets them tug at his arms for a bit, because it’s nice to be popular. This nets him a win to cancel out the first segment’s loss.

The third act doesn’t declare a decision either way for Miyuki or Kaguya, but the latter ends up embroiled in a fit of uncontrollable, boisterous laughter every time Chika says “wiener” in relation to her dog. While Miyuki has made great strides in her social interaction, she’s still a grade schooler when it comes to dirty words (or those that can be construed as such).

Once Chika realizes every time she says “wiener” Kaguya can’t help but roar with laughter, she’s already won; after all, she loves hearing Kaguya laugh, and the louder the better. She takes it up a notch when Miyuki arrives, threatening to make him say the word “wiener”, causing Kaguya to debase herself in front of her beloved President.

When Chika fails every time due to verbal blocks from Kaguya, she gives up and loudly protests that Miyuki “won’t give her wiener.” The resulting torrent of double entendres mortifies Miyuki, who quickly flees, while Yuu listens in on Chika’s continued liberal use of the word “wiener” from the other side of the door, his nose bleeding profusely. Winner: Chika.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 06 – Glamurderous Intent

This week we finally meet StuCo treasurer Ishigami Yuu, the sheltered, skittish yin to Chika’s gregarious, ebullient yang. Miyuki appointed him treasurer due to his considerable skills in financial management, and while he’s not often around, the work he does mostly at home keeps the StuCo solvent. So Miyuki is determined to discourage Yuu from suddenly resigning.

Yuu wants to resign because he has the complete wrong idea about Kaguya, mistaking her intense, imperious gaze for murderous intent she not only intends to act on, but has acted on before, and more than once. Matters aren’t helped when Kaguya scares the shit out of both guys by entering the office with a bloody knife and bloodstained tunic.

Turns out she’s just costume-fitting for the drama club, but she reminds Yuu—who doesn’t know better than to take her threats of pain and death 100% seriously—never to blab to Miyuki about hiding cafe coupons under the desk, hoping to lure Miyuki into a date. She also warns him not to quit the StuCo, so Yuu’s fear of being killed for resigning outweighs his fear of staying.

So the first segment is a bit ol’ loss for Yuu. In the second, Chika breaks out a book of psychological tests that determine who you like; a book Kaguya knew Chika would eventually acquire and read the whole thing in advance so that her answers wouldn’t subconsciously indicate her love for the President.

Miyuki also suspects Chika’s questions are a trap, and so gives a dishonest answer that indicates he’s a siscon, while Yuu’s answer indicates Stockholm Syndrome. Chika’s final question throws both Kaguya and Miyuki off, since it’s not from the book but online, and they both inadvertently answer honestly.

In this instance, Miyuki is determined to be the loser since his answer to gather an entire field of flowers indicates he harbors a similarly ridiculous amount of love for Kaguya, compared to Kaguya’s more modest bouquet. That being said, I don’t put a lot of stock in Chika’s unscientific tests, skewed as they are toward romantic intention.

In the final segment, Kaguya’s maid Hayasaka (who is apparently also a student there but has a gal-like persona with her friends) wants to give Miss “Swans don’t need ornamentation” Kaguya-sama some glam, starting with some gel nail polish with tasteful rhinestones on the ring fingers. Kaguya wants Miyuki to notice them and compliment her, but is also worried he’ll think they’re frivolous or silly.

Turns out he seemingly doesn’t notice the nails at all, even when she waves them inches from his eyes. The truth is, he immediately notices she’s being fashionable, but is worried about whether to respond, and how, assuming it’s another trap that will expose his feelings for her or simply to make him look foolish. He knows an improper compliment can be sexual harassment.

Yuu doesn’t make giving anyone compliments a particularly good idea when he correctly guesses that Chika has changed hair conditioners based on the smell, an observation Chika comes right out and calls “creepy”, leading Yuu to slink away wishing for death to come.

Once the day passes and Kaguya hears nothing from Miyuki, she starts to head home, on the verge of tears. But Miyuki, finally deciding what to do, races to her side in his bike, mentioning the nails, but coming just short of calling them “cute” (he only gets “cu-cu-cu” before chickening out and racing off).

Kaguya is frustrated he didn’t finish his thought, but the mere fact he noticed her nails after all, and was so bashful about it, makes her happy beyond belief, not to mention the winner of the segment.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 05 – An Alarming Lack of Coordination

We get a triad of segments this week, the first being a girl asking Kaguya for advice about breaking up with someone, specifically the guy Miyuki coached on how to ask her out in the first place! The resulting awkward silence that plagues their relationship is a matter of having gotten together before getting to know each other.

“Love Detective” Chika intervenes, protesting her initial exclusion from the girl talk, and administers a test that proves that both the girl likes the guy and that Kaguya likes Miyuki. Kaguya has to take great strides not to reveal too much about that, and tries to steer towards the couple thriving by having a “common enemy.”

Chika takes that a bit too far and calls their enemy society itself, but the couple’s shared enemy turns out to be hunger and/or poverty, so they manage to hit it off while working together on a charity. As Kaguya surveys her good works, she notices Miyuki is there helping out too…another of the many reasons she likes him besides having a cute resting scowl. She can’t help but admit her feelings to herself and us, so she loses this one.

In segment two we learn that for all his academic prowess and general physical strength and wellness, Miyuki is pathetically, horrifically uncoordinated when it comes to sports. With P.E. volleyball quickly approaching, he tries and fails to train alone, until Chika (who is really just okay at sports, but light years beyond him at this point) takes him under her wing.

Chika doesn’t see why Miyuki is so into this until she realizes he’s doing it to impress (some) girl. Cut to a montage of Miyuki making progress as Chika yells and encourages and sweats right alongside. Just when she think’s she’s made a great volleyball player, he asks her to help him with the actions of the sport other than mere serving. She’s a mess by the time P.E. volleyball comes around, but Miyuki is the toast of the class thanks to her, so she shares his victory.

The final segment is Love is War’s version of the shared umbrella scenario (SUS, not to be confused with the Subaru Sport Utility Sedan). Sharing an umbrella has a twofold purpose: to get a lot closer to the one you like, and to mark that person so everyone else knows they’re yours. Of course, Kaguya and Miyuki have to make it another battle of wills despite both wanting very much to share an umbrella, but they sabotage each other’s plans by both pretending they forgot their umbrella.

Miyuki tries first to poke oles in Miyuki’s lie first, but has insufficient information. Kaguya actually meticulously planned all of this by studying the weather and slashing the tires of her ride. Just when she has Miyuki cornered, all but forcing him to reveal he has an umbrella, Chika pops up behind her with a spare she can borrow. With Kaguya now in possession of an umbrella, she decides to “sublet” it to Miyuki, letting him “do what he wants” with it.

The fact she offered it to him so freely exposes her conern for him, and would make her the loser. But Kaguya also freely exposes her desire to share the umbrella, changing the result to a tie. Kaguya’s smile upon Miyuki offering to share was simply priceless. Both lost by their own twisted, self-defeating logic, but both won because they got what they actually wanted: an excuse to get closer.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 04 – Cat Ears, Banned Words, The First Text, French Invective

Citing that France is second only to Japan in cosplay popularity, Chika insists the StuCo welcome their new French exchange students while cosplaying. But when Kaguya and Miyuki put on cat ears, neither of them can resist smiling at the intolerable cuteness of the other.

Regardless, both don’t want the other knowing they find them cute, so they try to tough it out by grotesquely contorting their expressions in a futile effort to hide their mutual delight. To an outside observer like Chika, this looks like they’re glaring at each other with looks that could kill. Loser? Chika…for once!

The StuCo must organize a welcome party for the French, and two of them are needed to do all the necessary shopping, so Chika suggests the two losers of a “banned word” game will do the honors. This is a case of both Kaguya and Miyuki actually wanting to go shopping together, so it behooves them to let Chika win.

That suits Chika just fine, since she wants to win and pulls out all the stops to do so, demonstrating that while the Prez and Veep might look down on her as a second-rate intellect and airhead, she can more than handle herself in a banned-word game. She switches up her manner of speaking by rapping, and has the perfect words she knows Kaguya and Miyuki will readily say if properly stimulated: “love”, and “serious”, respectively.

With Kaguya and Miyuki both losing, their shopping date is set; they just have to agree when and where to meet, which requires one of them text the other for the first time. Kaguya’s maid (and audience surrogate) is somewhat exhausted by her charge’s beating around the bush (as are we all!) so she puts Kaguya in a corner by calling Miyuki then tossing the phone to her.

Miyuki’s extremely stern-sounding father answers, and eventually hands the phone over to his son, who is in the bathtub but doesn’t mind talking since his phone is waterproof. Once they’re talking, the tension fades away, but Kaguya makes the mistake of hanging up when Miyuki was in the middle of saying something else.

Kaguya curses herself while kicking in bed, but the result of her error is that Miyuki ends up being the one to text her first, telling her to stay warm and have a good night. Winner: Kaguya. Unfortunately, it pours so hard Shibuya Station floods, and the shopping trip is cancelled before it can begin. Still, Kaguya’s instinct to go regardless was correct: Miyuki was waiting for her, in the rain, by Hachiko…with his waterproof phone.

Thankfully, Miyuki doesn’t catch cold just in time for the French exchange students’ welcome party, so we get to watch him try to bluff about speaking French when he only skimmed a guidebook. Meanwhile, Kaguya merely pretended not to know French, only to turn around and speak fluently with one of the students. Even Chika, daughter of a diplomat, speaks French and other languages. Just full of surprises!

Little does Miyuki know the headmaster intended the party to be an important test to determine whether he’s truly worthy of leading the school. Betsy, the French StuCo veep and notoriously foul-mouthed master of verbal invective is sicced on Miyuki, and she proceeds to absolutely enrobe him in nasty French insults. Since Miyuki doesn’t speak a lick of French, it all bounces off!

The thing that isolated him ends up convincing the headmaster he does have what it takes, by enduring everything Betsy could through at him with placid “oui, ouis” in response. Even better, when Kaguya overhears Betsy, she comes to Miyuki’s defense, all while showing Betsy is no match for a properly scary Japanese high school girl.

Once the party has ended, Kaguya is ashamed of her nasty word-using, but Miyuki reminds her, he doesn’t speak French, so he didn’t hear any particulars of what she said. All he knows is she didn’t like how Betsy was talking to him, and fought on his behalf. For that, she has his gratitude. And so the episode closes with a win for both Kaguya and Miyuki.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 03 – Sex Ed, Ten Questions, and the Joy of Not Being Driven

When inappropriate literature is confiscated by the headmaster and given to Miyuki to dispose of, Chika takes one look and is scandalized, emphatically challenging fact about 1 in 3 high schoolers having “done it.” That means 1 in three in that very room could have already had an “experience”.

It’s Kaguya who comes right out and said she’s had one, shocking Chika and Miyuki and putting the latter in a bind: if asked if he’s done it, he knows Kaguya will sniff out a lie and likely respond with a devastating “that’s cute.”

Miyuki is defined by being extremely well-liked by the opposite sex (he’s even been given homemade chocolate…full of hair?!?) but utterly inexperienced with same (not counting his non-romantic interactions with Kaguya and Chika). Boundless confidence and pure chastity are a weird combo, but they take a back seat to Kaguya’s situation.

You see, Miyuki is bailed out from having to answer whether he’s “done it” after Kaguya says several things that paint the picture of an extremely perverse upbringing, having “done it” with a “newborn on videotape” and assuming Chika’s “done it” with her dog many times.

He finally asks Kaguya what she thinks “doing it” refers to, and she replies that it means “kissing.” It’s an answer someone who’s been boxed up and protected from any and all sexual education for all of her sixteen years. When Chika finally explains what “doing it” really means (a 15-minute process!), her faces says it all: she’s lost this round.

In the middle segment Miyuki notes how much Kaguya has mellowed, and how in the half-year they’ve worked together he’s come to understand her better. She decides to put him to the test with a game of “20 Questions”, only he limits him to just ten, since he claims to know her so well.

She writes something on a piece of paper, and he’ll have ten questions to figure out what it is. Miyuki is game, while Kaguya senses an opportunity.

Her “yes” and “no” questions take a turn when Miyuki asks “is it something you like” and she suddenly gets all bashful and flustered. He comes to think the thing she wrote down was him, as all the responses fit that conclusion so far.

Miyuki himself is so flustered by the end of the sequence, he blows his ninth question by providing a non-yes/no query. But after thinking about it more (or rather thinking about the other side of Kaguya he knows; the one that plots) He eventually guesses “dog”, and he’s correct.

Kaguya was probably trying to lead him to reveal his feelings by getting him to suggest she was talking about him, but he doesn’t go for it, and in the process proves that he indeed understands her. A win for Miyuki!

The rubber match…isn’t even a match between Kaguya and Miyuki, and Chika’s not even in the sequence. Intead, with a cat holed up in the engine compartment of the car that drives her to school, she decides to walk to school for the very first time, having watched other kids do it thousands of times from the car window.

It’s a beautiful sequence that underscores just how rare an experience this is for the sheltered princess, and knowing Miyuki’s bike route, attempts to “surreptitiously” cross paths so he’ll give her a ride to school. Her plan is seemingly foiled by a crying, scared middle schooler who can’t cross the street without a buddy.

As Kaguya stays with her for all the crosswalks that lead to her school, she learns that like she herself, this girl doesn’t want to walk alone. When Kaguya suggests she just arrange to walk with her friend, independent of official group walking, the girl labels her a genius before meeting up with her friend (who has the colorful nickname “Yeti”).

At this point, Kaguya knows she’ll be late to school, but as she’s coming to terms with that, the crossing sign flashes “stop” and none other than Miyuki screeches to a halt on his bike right beside her. After he gets over the shock of Kaguya being there, he instructs her to get on and ride with him, as it would be a black mark for the StuCo if she were late.

There’s no hesitation or embarrassment in what Miyuki does, and he even puts school rules ahead of traffic rules prohibiting two people on a bike. Logic is on Kaguya’s side today, and you can sense her joy as she rides with the furiously pedaling Miyuki, keeping her skirt down, her hair flowing in the wind.

Even though the next day she’s back in the car, she’ll always look fondly at the one exciting day she set out on foot and got picked up by the boy she likes. Kaguya wins without anyone losing—a marvelous example of the show balancing its usual cynicism with lovely, joyful segments like this.

Other Stuff:

  • The two cats in this episode looked really good. It’s like they were drawn by people who have actually seen cats before! :-)
  • Slight continuity error: In one shot, the Audi A8L in which the cat has taken up residence has a prop shaft holding open the hood, but in the next scene the shaft is gone. In real life the A8 hood has hydraulic struts.
  • Moments after the middle schooler mentions her friend “Yeti”, a real Yeti appears in the edge of the frame, using the crosswalk, as one does.
  • I couldn’t close without mentioning Chika’s absolutely adorable song-and-dance during the credits. Just tremendous animation that has the look of motion capture but without that fake smooth CGI look that plagued Zombieland Saga. A welcome surprise after an episode that was otherwise light on Chika.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 02 – It’s Not as Simple as Win or Lose

As a show that blasts through a lot of rapid-fire dialogue and shifts from one scenario to another, tackling a wide variety of interpersonal and societal concepts, it would seem Love is War trusts the intelligence of its audience.

But if that’s the case, why spend the first four minutes of this episode repeating all of the introductory explanations of how things work in the show? Did they just need to fill time, or did the producers think this all had to be explained again in consecutive weeks with the exact same narration and animation? I got it the first time you yelled it at me, VO guy!

Fortunately, that repetition is followed by three more very solid segments that build on the ongoing (and extremely counterproductive) conflict between Kaguya and Miyuki, starting with the notoriously frugal StuCo Prez finally acquiring a smartphone.

Unbeknownst to him, Miyuki dug into her bottomless rich girl resources to make it so he couldn’t resist buying one, so that he’d have to ask her for her contact info, which she’d consider no different than a confession, which would be a win for her.

While he doesn’t know he only has the phone because Kaguya wanted him to get one, he knows he can’t ask her for her info carelessly, and instead tries to bait her into asking for his by sharing a cute picture of him in his youth to Chika, then announcing he’ll change it in three minutes.

It may seem like playing dirty to use Chika as such a transparent pawn, but it’s not like she hasn’t influenced (and will influence) many of their decisions anyway. In this case, she’s a tool to lure Kaguya, who has to play dirty right back by applying “Maiden’s Tears” and protesting simply that Miyuki is being “mean.” It’s not a tactic she can use every time, but it works here, thanks to the psychological “Barnum Effect.”

However, Chika inadvertently throws another wrinkle into the equation that results in a draw, or loss, for both parties. She believes Kaguya is crying because she can’t chat on Line with her and Miyuki, because her antiquated flip phone—which she’s had since Kindergarten—won’t support the app. For all her towering rich girl resources, sentimentality is her undoing (as is her being unaware she couldn’t get Line on her phone).

As with all of their disputes, this isn’t really one that had to take place at all, if only Kaguya and Miyuki weren’t so proud and petty. This is proven when they innocuously exchange contact info anyway.

In Round Two, it’s frigid outside but Chika is already looking forward to Summer, and warns Kaguya and Miyuki that if they continue to sit on their hands they’ll graduate school with “nothing happening.” Chika means having fun high school memories, but Kaguya and Miyuki clearly see it as ragging on their lack of progress due to simple stubbornness and embarrassment wrapped up in an overstuffed “Love is War!” cover.

Chika suggests a Summer trip together, and Miyuki’s imagination immediately turns to the mountains, where he’ll woo Kaguya under the stars (with the requisite mention of Deneb and Altair before she states her desire to be “Alpha Centauri Bb to his B”). Naturally, Kaguya’s suggestion is to go to the sea, not the mountains.

Miyuki can’t swim, which he knows Kaguya would find “cute”, but every excuse he has, from crowds and sun to sharks, is immediately shot down by Kaguya, who had an entire manual prepared with counterarguments to anything he’d say in such a situation. Miyuki curses her for being such a rich girl; all her arguments backs up by cold hard cash. Besides, Kaguya says, the mountains are full of bugs—something the bug-hating Miyuki didn’t think of.

So he relents and says he’ll have to buy a swimsuit. Kaguya has won; they’re going to the beach, right? Wrong. Chika mentions she also needs to get a new swimsuit…because she won’t fit in her old one. Kaguya enters a body spiral, fearing she’ll be the one called “cute” by Miyuki  he inevitably compares her “peashooter” bust to Chika’s “tank-class” physique.

Now at a stalemate, with both now having good reasons not to go to either locale, they leave it up to Chika. Bad Idea; they should have come up with a third place to go as a compromise. Chika picks the mountains, but due to her previously unmentioned obsession with death and the occult, she picks the creepy Mount Osore. The match ends in neither a win or loss for anyone, but is simply “ruined.”

The third segment was my favorite, because it shakes things up a bit by having a wild card element other than Chika: a classmate seeking romantic advice from Miyuki. The kid assumes, like most of the school, not only that Miyuki and Kaguya are a couple, but that Miyuki is an experience veteran in the ways of love.

The truth is, as we know, that he has ZERO romantic experience, and is a complete dilettante in matters of love. But due to his otherwise high opinion of himself, his intellect, and his ability to bullshit, Miyuki decides to sally forth and offer advice, well aware that if he messes up and his ignorance is exposed, it could ruin his reputation.

This has all the makings of a train wreck in slow motion, and Kaguya is lucky enough to be there to eavesdrop, because we’re treated to her hilarious commentary of the advice session, in which she internally contradicts pretty much every piece of advice Miyuki provides.

She’s certain the chocolate the guy received was obligatory, but Miyuki insists it was meant to show that she actually loves him. Even the guy thinks she was making fun of him with her friends for not having a boyfriend, but Miyuki insists all four girls are into him, and he’ll have to break three hearts to win the fourth. I just couldn’t stop laughing not just at Miyuki’s ridiculous advice, but Kaguya’s harsh critique of same.

Finally, Miyuki demonstrates to the guy how to confess and ask the girl out, by using a tactic he “invented” that is nothing more than cornering a girl and slapping the wall, something Kaguya privately points out has been around forever. The thing is, Kaguya is on the other side of the door when Miyuki slams it, so in a way, he unknowingly does a wall-slam (or “wall-down” as he calls it) on her…and it kinda works.

Miyuki also tells the guy not to engage in unsightly convoluted schemes with the girl he likes, and even he can’t ignore the irony of him making that kind of statement…convoluted schemes being his stock and trade.

The guy, whom Kaguya has concluded to be an even bigger idiot and naif than Miyuki, thanks him for his advice, and brings up the rumor that Miyuki and Kaguya are dating, which flusters both of them. Miyuki quickly denies, and furthermore relays his suspicion that Kaguya doesn’t even like him and may indeed hate him.

When the guy asks him how he feels about Kaguya, Miyuki lists all the things he doesn’t like first, irking her from behind the door, before launching into ebullient praise and declaring her the “perfect woman”. The fact is, Miyuki spotted Kaguya’s hair peeking out from behind the door and so said what he knew she wanted to hear—as well as something he truly believed about her, but wouldn’t suffer consequence since she “wasn’t there to hear it.”

Similarly, Kaguya can openly display her wonderful mood after having such nice things said about her without worrying about him getting suspicious about why; after all, she doesn’t know he spotted her. Still, while there’s no consequence there isn’t much benefit to Miyuki’s actions, as it’s not like he wasn’t able to get Kaguya to confess, so he’s the loser for expending so much effort. On the bright side, as I predicted, the guy’s wall-slam actually ended up working (for once), so go figure!

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 01 – The First to Confess Loses!

Here it is: perhaps the romantic comedy of the Winter. All dramatic theatrical staging, lighting, and musical stabs, Kaguya-sama: Love is War elevates something as deceptively simple as mutual romantic interest between two high schoolers into a grand operatic life-and-death affair.

Part of that is because the two in question aren’t ordinary high schoolers: are the top two students at the most prestigious school in the country. StuCo Vice President Shinomiya Kaguya’s family owns a good chunk of Japan, while President Shirogane Miyuki, while a commoner by comparison, possesses unsurpassed academic prowess.

Let’s get one thing straight: these two like each other, but would never ever say as such, let alone confess it. To do so would be to surrender the upper hand, shift the power dynamic, and become the supplicant, ceding dominance to the confessee. Despite their disparate backgrounds, Kaguya and Miyuki have too much pride and dignity to let that happen.

As such, while the rest of the student body sees them as the perfect couple who may even already be secretly dating, the two exist in a constant state of war, with the StuCo office serving as the battlefield. The neutral party between them, the far less brainy secretary Fujiwara Chika, often serves as a wild card in the pair’s ensuing battles.

In the first sequence, she’s also a pawn: Kaguya planted movie tickets in Chika’s mailbox, knowing she wouldn’t be able to go and would offer them to her and Miyuki. This creates a scenario in which Miyuki asks Kaguya if she wants to know, knowing that boy-girl pairs who go to this specific movie tend to end up as couples.

Their battle of wills is a chess game of moves, counter-moves, and counter-counter-moves, but when Chika also points out the tickets are also valid for an innocuous kids movie, a chaotic element is added to the pair’s already complex calculations, overheating their brains. Worse, Chika snatches the only source of sugar in the office that they could use to recharge and rally. Thus, the first battle we witness, both Kaguya and Miyuki lose.

In battle #2, Kaguya receives an anonymous love letter, and makes it known to both Miyuki and Chika that she fully intends to go, hoping it will provoke Miyuki into slipping up and demanding she not go…because he loves her. Miyuki knows what Kaguya intends, and attempts to dissuade her not as a man, but under his authority as StuCo President to discourage illicit relationships. He even considers tattling to the teacher, a risky move, but one that won’t expose his true feelings.

Kaguya counters by declaring that if it’s true love, she will risk suspension or even expulsion to give her body and soul to the writer of the letter, which almost causes Miyuki to slip up. He turns things around by asking, very speifically for the sake of argument, if she’d still go on the date if he were to confess to her. Kaguya’s true feelings are momentarily exposed, and she admits, too easily, that she’d reconsider before coming to her senses and preparing to go through with the date.

Ultimately Chika again intervenes in the battle of minds, grabbing Kaguya and tearfully declaring she won’t let her get expelled for a date, because she loves her too much to let such a thing happen. And so, with a crucial but unintentional assist by Chika, Kaguya loses this round.

The theme of the third and final battle of the episode (which packs a lot of bang for the buck!) is lunch. Specifically, Kaguya’s desire to taste a good old-fashioned classic Japanese school lunch with all the standbys: omelettes, hamburger, white rice, miso, plum, and most important, octopus wieners. The lunches she gets are prepared by a team of professional chefs, but Miyuki’s got the stuff she wants.

Of course, she can’t simply ask for a taste. But Chika certainly can, and does, compounding Kaguya’s anguish. She brings in an extra-fancy lunch, hoping to entice Miyuki to trade, but he doesn’t bite. Miyuki even makes Chika an identical lunch just for her, and with every bite (and indirect kiss) Kaguya’s opinion of Chika gets lower and more sinister. Miyuki can sense Kaguya’s negative aura this whole time, but assumes she’s looking down on his meager commoner repast, when quite the opposite is true.

Miyuki suspects Kaguya is up to something, even though this time she just wants a taste of his lunch, and ends up retreating from the office for StuCo business rather than find out what that might be, to live another day. However, since he fled, and Chika ends up offering her a cocktail weiner unbidden, Kaguya wins this last round, bringing her and Miyuki’s week one record to 1-1-1 each (or 1-2 if the first battle is a loss for both; I consider that a draw).

And there you have it! Despite all their constant scheming and wheel-spinning, I found Kaguya and Miyuki to both be likable, rootable characters, even if they remain doomed to remain in a stalemate as long as they maintain their stubborn positions of waiting for the other party to make the first move. The closed-off, bottle-like nature of the StuCo office gives the episode a compactness and laser-focus, and while one more StuCo member has yet to be introduced, I hope the cast stays this small.

Full of lively competitive energy, but with underlying mutual affection and respect, I’m looking forward to watching Kaguya and Miyuki spar in the future, with Chika in the middle demonstrating that they could make things so much easier for themselves if they just lightened up!

Citrus – 05

Mei has no time for Yuzu and Himeko’s little competition for her, as she’s busy with both student council duties and filling in for her grandfather, the chairman. She orders the rivals to eat lunch together instead, and neither dare disobey.

Thus starts the first of many of the kind of interactions I was hoping for between Yuzu and Himeko: ones in which they put their gloves down for a second and simply exist adjacent to one another, as they must due to their associations with Mei.

Harumin serves as a great mediator in this venture, even suggesting the three of them and Mei go to Amagi Brilliant Park (well, something like it). Both Himeko and Yuzu doubt Mei will agree, but Yuzu will give it a try.

What Yuzu does manage is to get a day alone with Mei when they’re not at school; when Yuzu lies and said Mama would also like it if she accompanies Yuzu to visit her Papa. Note that Mei probably would have refused if Yuzu hadn’t lied, but it’s a good thing she did.

At first, Yuzu treats this like her first date with Mei, and tries to “cross a line” like Himeko claims to have done, first by breathing on Mei’s ear in a packed train (at first an accident, but repeated once she notices Mei’s reaction), then licking it.

When Mei asks her what the heck is up with her, Yuzu mentions what Himeko said, and Mei sets her straight: Himeko tried to do something weird to her and she scolded her. There’s nothing between them. This really puts a spark in Yuzu’s idea of her chances.

This leads to her trying to get an indirect kiss out of Mei by having a bite of her crepe, only for Mei to have only finished it. Mei delivers revenge for the ear-licking by wiping some cream off Yuzu’s face and eating it slowly, causing Yuzu to nearly boil over.

All these sensual gestures, combined with the simple pleasure of hanging out with Mei alone, gets Yuzu all worked up; she wants to kiss Mei and shout her love from the mountaintop more than ever.

But when she’s about to ask if they can hold hands (incremental steps), Himeko pulls up in her S-Class Benz and starts attacking Yuzu.

With a cruel, icy calmness, Mei basically tells Himeko to buzz off, and beckons for Yuzu to keep going. Mei and Yuzu walk away, leaving Himeko standing there, stunned, alone, and hurt.

It’s not the first time I felt for Himeko, but I’d never felt for her more before this moment. Even Yuzu can’t help but turn back, not to gloat, but with a pained, empathetic look.

It was around the time I was thinking “when the heck are they going to meet Yuzu’s Papa” that Yuzu brings Mei to a graveyard. It never occurred to me he was deceased, as I (wrongly) assumed her mom was divorced, not widowed. Mei also seems both surprised to have been brought there, but also honored.

It’s a very solemn, touching scene when Yuzu says all the good and bad things about Mei when introducing her and Mei doesn’t challenge any of it; this isn’t the time or place. Even more touching is Yuzu’s reaction when Mei silently prays at the grave. Yuzu is about to muster the courage to say something she needs to say…but Mei beats her to it.

The letters Mei gets from her father (whom she calls “Sensei”), one of which Yuzu jokingly threatened to open? Mei has never opened any of them. She’s afraid to, because if any of them contradict her long-standing hope that he’ll come back one day and everything “will be the way it was”, she’d be crushed.

When a shaken, tearful Mei asks Yuzu if such an outcome is really possible, Yuzu says the tactful thing, even if it isn’t something she can guarantee: everything will be fine, and she’ll help her in any way she can, like a sister should. The smile Mei gives Yuzu drives the point home: Mei doesn’t need love; at least not right now. She needs family.

As Yuzu cries out of Mei’s sight, Mei seems to be laboring to maintain consciousness, and sure enough, she collapses on the stairs at school the next day, right in front of Himeko. Trying to force herself up, she runs down Himeko just as Yuzu enters earshot, and, whatever bad shape she’s in, Yuzu doesn’t let Mei’s cruelty towards Himeko go unanswered.

What she does do is order Himeko to take Mei’s place at the various meetings she meant to attend, while she takes Mei to the nurse’s office. The two drop their rivalry for Mei’s sake, because Mei has not been looking out for herself properly enough, and their childish rivalry has blinded them to the toll Mei’s overwork has taken.

In the nurse’s, there’s no makeout scene, but a scolding scene. Mei explains how driven she is to become a worthy successor to her grandfather, especially now that his health may be failing. Yuzu wonders out loud why Mei’s father doesn’t take over, and Mei, for once, agrees with Yuzu’s  “nonsense”, which she likens to a broken watch—right twice a day.

And just to bring things around, Yuzu and Himeko have a nice little scene together in which Yuzu scolds her for overwork as well, tells her to be more honest, and the two come to a kind of detente.

That detente is sealed, in a way, when while walking to school the next day, Yuzu urges Mei to go ahead when they spot Himeko. Mei apologizes for being such a bitch to her and taking her for granted, and Himeko is instantly in tears, hugging her tightly, probably telling Mei she has nothing to apologize for.

That night, Mei’s father shows up, just like that. Yuzu has no idea who he is, and gets skeeved out when he hugs her and doesn’t let go (which, yeah guy, don’t hug a girl who doesn’t know you). Mei’s reaction to seeing her father again—as well as his reaction to seeing her—tells me things aren’t going to be the same in the Aihara household…but they’re definitely not going to be boring!

In the meantime, I really enjoyed both Himeko and Yuzu’s growth in this episode, the continued casual, reliable support role Harumin plays, and how Mei and Yuzu drew closer together not in a romantic way, but as family. Most importantly, Yuzu is now consciously weighing her own desires with what is actually best for her “little sister.”